What is the Moist Heat Sterilization Method?

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  • 0:04 Infection Prevention
  • 0:43 Moist Heat Sterilization
  • 1:47 Autoclave
  • 2:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Moist heat sterilization is an effective way to eliminate possible infectious microorganisms from an object. This lesson will provide you with all kinds of information about this sterilization method.

Infection Prevention

Think about the last time you went to the dentist. Your dentist or a dental hygienist probably poked and prodded your gums and teeth with sharp, metal dental instruments, such as a dental probe (the scary, super sharp, hook-shaped pic that makes so many people afraid of the dentist). The dentist or hygienist might have also flossed and polished your teeth to make them as clean as can be.

You know what most likely didn't happen the last time you were at the dentist? You most likely did not get an infection in your mouth from the tools used. One of the main reasons why, and why millions of people throughout the country do not get infections from various medical procedures, is due to moist heat sterilization.

Moist Heat Sterilization

Moist heat sterilization is a procedure in which heated, high-pressure steam is used to sterilize an object. This sterilization technique does not involve any toxic liquids or fumes, and it's relatively inexpensive, quick, and effective in killing and eliminating potentially infectious bacteria, viruses, and spores. Hospitals use moist heat sterilization to sterilize medical equipment, such as surgical scalpels. Dentists also frequently use this sterilization technique to clean much of their dental equipment.

Bacteria and viruses are made up of proteins, and moist heat sterilization works by denaturing these proteins. Denaturation is a process in which the structures of the proteins are disrupted and altered, and once the bacteria and viruses are denatured, they will be unable to cause infection.

There are some disadvantages to moist heat sterilization. Since it uses steam (water vapor), the objects will get wet and have the potential to rust. Additionally, anytime pressurized heat is used, there is a potential for people to burn themselves.

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